E-Mail Security Services for Small Business and Individuals

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2003-12-29 Print this article Print

A number of vendors offer managed e-mail services for enterprise. However, now individuals and small businesses owners can find services for spam and virus protection, and at a very reasonable cost.

A good number of Internet Service Providers offer decent security features, still many still dont. If your ISP doesnt block viruses or filter spam, or if your unhappy with their services, you have more options than you might think. Changing ISPs to one with better service isnt necessarily an easy thing for many individuals and small businesses. If youre a cable modem customer you probably cant just take your business to some other cable company. And almost certainly, youd have to change your e-mail address, a major hassle. Of course, its possible to run local spam filtering software, but who needs another program hogging memory on their system and slowing it down? For example, I run Norton Antispam and my performance is about as fast Manny Ramirez running out a grounder to second. Im about fed up with how slow it is.
During a recent eSeminar, Ziff Davis Medias online teleconferences, I advocated for the managed-service approach to enterprise spam filtering. (You can still listen to this conference and view the presentations here.)
Services like Postini and Frontbridge offer advantages for enterprises. These services can do a better job than most at filtering spam because they get to see a lot of it, and a lot of ham (legitimate mail) as well. Most of them scan mail for viruses and worms with at least one scanning technology. They can queue your mail for you if your own servers go down. Last, but not least, an inherent feature of their architecture can keep the spam and viruses off your network completely. There are also similar spam services geared towards individuals and small businesses too. Ive found four. Two are very inexpensive, and in a blast from the dotcom era, one of them is free. Unlike changing your ISP, you dont have to change your e-mail address. The service becomes the client for your ISP mail, and you retrieve your filtered mail from the service. I reviewed AlienCamel (the name is an anagram of "Clean Email") for PC Magazine a few months ago. The service worked pretty well, and even though its geared towards individuals it has a lot of the same advantages as the enterprise products, plus some unique advantages. Like the enterprise products, AlienCamel scans for viruses, although you should definitely scan locally for extra security. Like the big guys, AlienCamel gets to see a lot more spam than any product running on a desktop can. And because the mail is filtered before you get to it, you dont waste Internet bandwidth and disk space on spam and viruses. AlienCamel also gives you the option of using IMAP for your mail client, even if your ISP only offers POP3. If youre unfamiliar with IMAP, it basically allows you to have server-side folders and synchronize them with your host-side mail client. However, theres a big problem for many people with IMAP: Symantecs desktop security products, such as Norton Antivirus, only scan POP3 mail. Even though AlienCamel scans for viruses, you still need to run your own local antivirus protection. So be warned: if you run Norton Antivirus, youll have to use AlienCamel in POP3 mode (I believe POP3 support is part of the IMAP spec). Since my review, AlienCamel has added a number of enhancements. They now have full Web-mail access to the account, which is great for when youre on the road. They now support disposable addresses, which are throwaway addresses that forward mail to your real account; so if the address starts to receive spam you can simply delete it. The other changes are a bit esoteric. AlienCamel costs $15.99 for 6 months. Next page: Fusemail, OnlyMyEmail and Mailshell...

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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